Garcia v. Las Vegas Metro. Police Dep't, Case No. 2:17-cv-02504-APG-PAL

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
Docket NumberCase No. 2:17-cv-02504-APG-PAL
Decision Date20 February 2019


Case No. 2:17-cv-02504-APG-PAL


February 20, 2019


(1st Am. Compl. - ECF No. 42)

This matter is before the court for a screening of Plaintiff Manuel Garcia's First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 42). This screening is referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and LR IB 1-3 of the Local Rules of Practice.

Mr. Garcia is a pro se prisoner in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections at High Desert State Prison. This is a civil rights action arising from Garcia's allegations, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983, regarding his medical treatment prior to arrest and while incarcerated at the Clark County Detention Center ("CCDC"). Garcia filed his original complaint in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Nevada. The defendants subsequently removed the case to this court and requested a screening of Garcia's complaint before an answer or responsive pleading is required. ECF No. 3. The court granted the request and noted that the complaint would be screened in due course. Order (ECF No. 25). Garcia later received leave of the court to amend his complaint. The court will now screen his First Amended Complaint.


Federal courts must screen any IFP complaint or amended complaint before allowing the case to move forward, issuing summons, and requiring an answer or responsive pleading. 28 U.S.C. § 1915; Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 213-14 (2007). The court must conduct a preliminary

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screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its screening, the court must identify any plausible claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA)); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Allegations in a pro se complaint are held to less stringent standards than formal pleading drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Byrd v. Phoenix Police Dep't, 885 F.3d 639 (9th Cir. 2018). However, pro se litigants "should not be treated more favorably than parties with attorneys of record," Jacobsen v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1364 (9th Cir. 1986); rather, they must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995). When a court dismisses a complaint on the initial screening, the plaintiff is ordinarily given leave to amend the complaint with directions as to curing its deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

A. Garcia's Factual Allegations and Claims for Relief

The First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 42) names as defendants (1) Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department ("LVMPD"), (2) Officer Brandon Prisbrey, (3) Sunrise Medical Hospital (the "Hospital"), (4) Sheriff Joe Lombardo, (5) Dr. Susanne Roozendaal, (6) NaphCare, Inc., and (7) "John Doe," a "NaphCare Doctor" who treated Garcia at CCDC. Mr. Garcia asserts that defendants violated his civil rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and committed intentional torts pursuant to state law.

The First Amended Complaint alleges that Garcia was significantly injured on January 3, 2016, in a motor vehicle accident that caused multiple bone fractures. 1st Am. Compl. at 5. Officer Prisbrey followed or transported Garcia to the Hospital. Id. The fractures caused Garcia great pain and necessitated intravenous morphine; thus, he was "psychologically discombobulated." Id. Dr. Roozendaal treated Garcia's injuries and diagnosed his ankle fracture. Id. He alleges Dr. Roozendaal should have admitted him to the Hospital to immediately receive corrective orthopedic surgery but Officer Prisbrey interfered. Id. Dr. Roozendaal followed the officer's direction and

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discharged Garcia from the Hospital. Id.

Upon discharge, Officer Prisbrey transported Garcia to CCDC where he was booked on criminal charges. Id. at 5. Garcia was immediately admitted to CCDC's infirmary, which is administered by NaphCare. Id. at 6. He repeatedly requested that NaphCare facilitate a surgery on his ankle. Id. Doctor "John Doe" purportedly told Garcia that he would not refer him "for surgery transport to UMC due to lack of referal [sic] and due to costs associated with the necessary procedures." Id. Thus, Garcia was forced to apply traction and straighten out his own ankle. Id. He claims he repeatedly submitted medical requests but was denied grievance forms. Id. Garcia stayed in the CCDC infirmary from January 3 to February 4, 2016, after which he was moved to the infirmary at High Desert State Prison. Id. As a result of the defendants' misconduct, Garcia asserts that his right ankle is permanently disfigured, he has lost full mobility, and his ankle causes him excruciating pain. Id.

In Count I, Garcia claims that LVMPD, Officer Prisbrey, Sheriff Lombardo, the Hospital, Dr. Roozendaal, and NaphCare violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Officer Prisbrey purportedly interfered with Garcia's medical treatment by instructing Dr. Roozendaal to discharge him. Id. Dr. Roozendaal allegedly prescribed surgery, but discharged Garcia in deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Id. at 5-6. NaphCare Dr. John Doe acted with deliberate indifference by refusing to send Garcia to surgery due to the cost of the procedure. Id. at 6. NaphCare was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs because he "was denied medically necessary and previously prescribed surgery" in order to save money. Id. In addition, Garcia alleges Sheriff Lombardo entered into a contract with NaphCare to save money knowing that NaphCare is the subject of numerous lawsuits/investigations for deliberate indifference to detainee's medical needs. Id. As chief policy maker, Sheriff Lombardo purportedly failed to create policies that ensure timely and adequate medical care to detainees at CCDC. Id.

Count II alleges a state law claim against all the defendants for gross negligence and/or negligence. Id. at 7.

In Count III, Garcia alleges that the defendants acted with reckless disregard and caused him substantial physiological/psychological pain and emotional distress. Id. at 8. Thus, he alleges

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a state law claim against all the defendants for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id.

In Count IV, Mr. Garcia alleges that LVMPD, Sheriff Lombardo, the Hospital, and NaphCare are principals who acted through their agents, Officer Prisbrey, Dr. John Doe, and Dr. Roozendaal. Id. at 9. As a result of the principals' negligent or reckless training and supervision of their agents, Garcia suffered substantial harm. Thus, he asserts a claim for supervisory liability.

In his request for relief, Mr. Garcia seeks $200,000 in compensatory damages for each count and various "exemplary" damages. Id. at 13.

B. Legal Standard

Federal courts are required to dismiss an IFP action if the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, is legally "frivolous or malicious," or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In determining whether a complaint is frivolous and therefore warrants complete or partial dismissal, a court is not bound to accept without question truth of plaintiff's allegations. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). Allegations are frivolous when they are "clearly baseless," id., or lack an arguable "basis in law or fact." Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2005). Frivolous claims include those based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g., claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest that clearly does not exist), as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations (e.g., fantastic or delusional scenarios). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). Malicious claims are those "filed with the intention or desire to harm another." King, 398 F.3d at 1121.

The standard for determining whether a plaintiff has failed to state a claim under §§ 1915 and 1915A is the same as the standard under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure1 for failure to state a claim. See El-Shaddai v. Zamora, 833 F.3d 1036, 1043 (9th Cir. 2016) ("The phrase 'fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted' from § 1915(g) purposely 'parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)'.") (quoting Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1121); Washington v. L.A. County Sheriff's Dep't, 833 F.3d 1048, 1055-56 (9th Cir. 2016). A district court may dismiss a plaintiff's complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be

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granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. North Star Intern. v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 580 (9th Cir. 1983). For purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) review, well-plead factual allegations are accepted as true, but vague allegations, unreasonable inferences, and legal conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Teixeira v. County of Alameda, 873 F.3d 670, 678 (9th Cir. 2017) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 680 (2009); Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007)).

A properly pled complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" as well as the grounds for the court's jurisdiction and a demand for relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). To avoid dismissal on a Rule 12(b)(6) review, a plaintiff must allege enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bell...

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